Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DWC: the case for Gio Ponti

Frustration at Kempton where Tropical Beat failed to get a clear run in the race. It wouldn't have won, but a Placed second could have been possible. Part of the hard luck of racing I suppose; you get favourable conditions some times, and you're left ruing your luck at other times.

The Dubai World Cup draw was made today and clear favourite Twice Over has been unluckily drawn on the outside at post 12th. That is really tough luck for the Henry Cecil colt. Still 3 days to go before the big race, but I have the feeling that the overlooked horse in this race is Gio Ponti.

There are not many American-bred or American-trained turf runners that warrant the same respect as their rest-of-the-world counterparts. Turf racing in America is second-rate as this country predominantly contains the best dirt horses in the world. Gio Ponti is the grass runner with the exception and can hold his own even against the world's best turf horses. He might not win against them, but he will not be outclassed either. The other peculiar thing about Gio Ponti is that he completely outruns his pedigree. His sire is Tale of the Cat, a pure dirt horse sprinter. Gio Ponti has won at stamina-laden turf races such as the Arlington Million. But let's put pedigree aside, and evaluate his chances in the big race.

He has won on dirt and turf, and is proven on synthetic, coming out second behind Zenyatta in the Breeders Cup Classic in 2009 at Santa Anita. He's also proven on the Tapeta having come out 4th in the same race last year, and was the second-best finisher of the race behind Lizard's Desire. His off-place finish one length from winner Gloria di Campeao is remarkable given the fact that he was not tip-top 100% according to his trainer. According to the latter, he's in excellent shape this time round.  The distance won't be a problem as he's won at a mile and a half, and he will definitely be among the best finishers. But what catches the eye for me is that he's met favourite Twice Over twice, and he's beaten him both times. The first encounter was in the above-mentioned BC Classic where Gio Ponti came out second, and Twice Over third behind the incomparable Zenyatta. In last year's DWC, Gio Ponti was 4th while Twice Over was 10th. Factor in the big draw advantage this year where Gio will start from stall 5 while Twice Over from stall 12th, and you can see that if Twice Over is 2/1, then can  Gio Ponti be 12/1?

The only negative point with the American colt is that it will be his first race since November last year. He does not have a prep run in him, unlike Twice Over who's bound to improve further from his impressive seasonal debut at Meydan a few weeks ago. Although his past performances seem to indicate that he runs well fresh, it remains to be seen how much of a disadvantage that will be in this most competitive race. Still, at 12/1 right now for a Win, there could be value for a Place or each-way bet on him. Unless conditions change in the next few days, I see him as a good value bet to be in the first 3 at this point. I'll re-assess that view of him as the picture comes clearer in the next coming days.

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